Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Paris: La Coulée Verte Rene Dumont

The start, once you have climbed up from street level

Last year we walked the wonderful High Line linear park in New York. Afterwards, I was surprised to learn that although pioneering, it was not the first of its kind: there was an earlier one in Paris which was inaugurated in 1993. This was originally called La Promenade Plantée, but is now known as La Coulée Verte Rene Dumont (The René Dumont Green Path: named in honour of a pioneer ecologist). It's website is here. It is exactly the same concept: a redundant former goods railway line, long closed, was imaginatively converted into a green walkway. The High Line is entirely elevated, while only the first half of La Coulée Verte is.

It starts near to the Place de la Bastille, but exactly where proved difficult to establish as the map of the Promenade Plantée which I had downloaded proved hard to decipher. However, after we caught sight of people walking across an elevated railway bridge we managed to home in on it at the intersection of Avenue Daumesnil and Boulevard Ledru-Rollin. It turns out the Coulée follows the line of Avenue Daumesnil. The precise official start point is the junction of Boulevard Carnot, Avenue Emile-Laurent and Rue Edward-Lartet. 

You walk along a tarmac path with greenery on both sides and a smattering of spring flowers. Immediately there are quite a lot of birds.

From this elevated position there are good views of the surrounding buildings. I loved the art nouveau decotration of this block at 30 Avenue Daumesnil.

A bit further on we saw a sign which indicated that the needs of walkers were to be given priority, joggers were tolerated if they did not cause inconvenience. We saw loads of joggers, certainly as many as walkers, but this sign did explain one remarkable moment.

I was taking a picture looking ahead along the path when I heard a jogger coming up behind me and quickly took the shot. Meanwhile he stopped to ensure that he did not spoil the picture! Wonderful, but hitherto unheard of – pedestrians do occasionally, but never joggers.

A bit further on as we crossed Diderot, I spied another fantastic art nouveau block

Soon afterwards there was another lovely arrangement of the signature green arches.

And then at the intersection of Rue de Rambouillet we came upon this fantastic sight.

A whole series of identical naked male figures forming a frieze around  the top of an office block? Absolutely extraordinary! But the best bit was the building housed ....  a police station.

Soon after this we reached the Park Reuilly where a flower bed right at the entrance provided a wonderful burst of colour.

The path continued ahead, but now at ground level and passing through an area of new apartments  - and then we had to cross a road. What a shock! This sudden change of character ended after we went through an underpass and emerged into a leafy railway cutting.

The final section meandered under roads and through more housing developments to stop quite abruptly at a blocked underpass which would have gone under the Péripherique. Thanks to to the wonders of Google maps, we found our way to a métro station in the town of Saint-Mande, pausing for lunch on the way.

Conditions: Mostly sunny and warm, but did get a bit fresh from time to time.

Distance: 4.5 km.

Rating: Four stars. An absolute delight at first, but the second half was less rewarding – and you end up over half a mile from the nearest metro station.

Comparisons with the New York High Line

Signage and publicity are not so good. We gained the impression that La Coulée Verte was meant to be a resource for the local community, rather than a tourist attraction. In consequence it was not so crowded. It certainly carries more joggers – the High Line when we went was too crowded for this to be possible. Maybe it's different in the early morning.

As already noted, the High Line is solely elevated while La Coulée Verte only starts that way.

The landscaping is much less ambitious: the path follows the middle way with planting on either side, while the High Line is much more varied in the line of the path and the nature of seating and other areas, including one large grassy space for sunbathing.

The La Coulée Verte planting is more established, with perennial plants and shrubs, the High Line's is was developed and seemed to have more annuals. 


It seems that further linear parks are under development in Chicago and Philadelphia.

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